Pepper farming in Nigeria is one of the most profitable vegetable farming businesses anyone can engage in. Pepper is used in almost all types of foods eaten in Nigeria. Almost every Nigerian eats pepper, if not all Nigerians, this makes the cultivation of pepper a lucrative business in Nigeria.
Pepper farming is the cultivation of peppers; it is one of the most lucrative farming ventures in Nigeria.
Pepper farming in Nigeria can be grouped under the cultivation of habanero (atarodo) pepper, cultivation of sweet pepper (bell pepper), cultivation of chilli pepper, cultivation of shombo pepper, yellow pepper farming and cultivation of the local bell pepper (tatase).
Step By Step Guide on How to Start Pepper Farming
The following are the steps to take to grow pepper in Nigeria:
- Site Selection
- Climatic Conditions Requirement
- Capital and Farming Business Requirement
- Soil Requirement
- Land Preparation for Pepper Farming
- Varieties of Pepper to Plant
- Nursery Management
- Transplanting of Seedlings
- Application of Fertilizers
- Weed Control and Pruning in Pepper Farming
- Pest Control in Pepper Farming
- Disease Control
- Post-Harvest and Marketing
1. Site Selection
Pepper prefers a farmland site with abundant sunshine. It is a tropical vegetable crop that does well in a warm and sunlight rich environment.
Pepper prefers a fertile soil rich in organic matters. The pH of the soil should be 5.5 – 6.5. Pepper can grow under a high temperature, though it prefers a temperature level of 20 Celsius to 35 Celsius.
Pepper can do well in the Rain Forest, Guinea Savannah, Sudan Savannah, Sahel Savannah, Plateau Area and Mangrove belts of Nigeria
2. Climatic Condition Requirements for Pepper Farming
All types of peppers grow under tropical climatic conditions. Peppers love sun, hence the reason why pepper farming does well in all areas in Nigeria.
Pepper farming can do well in hot and humid environment. The optimum growing temperature for most types of pepper is 20-30 celsius. Some varieties of hot peppers can do well in very hot conditions. In Nigeria, some peppers grow very well in areas with temperature exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.
Pepper farming cannot be done in very cold environment, also when temperature is too hot, it can cause flower abortion and leaves defoliation in pepper plants.
3. Capital and Farming Requirement
To engage in pepper farming, the expected cost, expected revenue and expected profit has to be calculated and analysed. A business plan has to be written for the pepper farming project.
4. Soil Requirement
To grow pepper, it is advised that the soil to be used should have a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The soil should also be rich in organic matters. Pepper prefers sandy loamy soil that is drainable.
5. Land Preparation for Pepper Farming
Pepper can grow well in most of the types of soil in Nigeria. Pepper can grow in loamy, sandy and clay soil. Pepper will not do well in very acidic soils and very alkaline soils.
In the forest zones of Nigeria, a lot of money will be spent to prepare the land for pepper farming especially if the farmer wants to cultivate on a virgin forest. Forests are dense in southern Nigeria with a lot of trees; the pepper farmer will have to remove the trees and other vegetation on the soil.
In the savannah belt of Nigeria where there are few trees, it is not expensive to prepare land for pepper farming.
After the removal of the vegetation on the soil, the farmer is advised plough his farmland, depending on the condition of the farmland, the farmer can plough his land twice. After ploughing, the farmer should harrow his farmland and the last stage is to ridge the farmland. All these processes can be mechanized with the use of tractors.
Farm Yard Manure (FYM) or chicken manure should be added to the farmland before ridging. This will make the soil become rich in nutrients. Nematicides can also be added to the soil to kill harmful soil borne insects and nematodes.
6. Varieties of Peppers in Nigeria
You can plant either open pollinated pepper seeds or hybrid seeds while engaging in pepper farming. Open pollinated seeds are cheap; they can also be saved and replanted by farmers. Hybrid seeds are bred by scientists; they are bred to resist diseases and pests better than the open pollinated seeds.
Hybrid seeds in most cases have a much higher yield than open pollinated seeds.
There are a lot of varieties of peppers in Nigeria. Some are sweet pepper varieties, habanero pepper varieties and chilli pepper varieties etc.
Open pollinated pepper varieties can also be used for pepper farming in Nigeria.
7. Irrigation for Pepper Farming
One of the top secrets of making super normal profit from pepper farming is to use irrigation especially drip irrigation.
Most of the pepper farmers in Nigeria use the rain as the sole method of getting water to their plants. Rain fed farmers plant cultivate their peppers at the same time and also harvest at the same time, this causes a glut in the market. During glut, prices get depressed and farmers make little or no profit.
With irrigation, farmers can cultivate their crops all year round. Drip irrigation systems are especially very efficient. With drip irrigation, farmers can pass water to the roots of their plants in an efficient manner. Drip irrigation systems also allow farmers to fertilize their crops without the need of labourers to side dress or top dress. This process is called fertigation.
Drip irrigation pepper farmers often record 50-200% more yield than rain fed farmers. Also, they can better fertilise their crops than rain fed farmers.
8. Nursery Management in Pepper Farming
In Nigeria, the conventional farmers raise pepper seeds in nursery beds. The nursery beds are raised soil or ridges where farmers plant pepper seeds for their initial growth before transplanting to the main field.
Farmers often use palm fronds or leaves to cover the pepper nursery in order to create some shade. Some farmers use shade nets to provide shades for the young pepper seedlings.
When using soil for nursery, the soil is treated with pesticides. Well cured manure is also added to the soil to boost its fertility.
The best type of nursery to use for pepper farming is the use of nursery or seed trays with soilless medium like coco peat. This ensures that the pepper seedlings roots are not disturbed when uprooted for transplanting.
Direct sowing of pepper seeds can also be done especially if you are using drip irrigation and the weather is not too hot. However, we strongly advise the use of nursery.
9. Transplanting of Seedlings
Pepper seedlings are usually transplanted after 4 – 6 weeks in nursery. Seedlings’ transplanting should be done in the early morning or evening when the intensity of sunlight is low.
The field should also be well irrigated before the pepper seedlings are transplanted.
10. Application of Fertilizers
Before the application of manure and fertilisers on pepper plants or soil, you need to do a soil analysis from a reputable laboratory.
1-4 tonnes of chicken manure should be applied per hectare of pepper depending on the result of your soil test. Manure enables the soil to retain more water and nutrients aside the fact that it also adds some nutrients to the soil. Chicken manure is one of the most potent or richest manures for cultivation of vegetables and indeed any crop. Fertilizers should be applied in stages in pepper planting.
The first stage is the base dressing stage also known as the pre-planting stage. At this stage, fertilisers like single super phosphate (ssp), diamonium phosphate (DAP), potassium sulphate, dolomite, calmag fertilizer and ammonium nitrate can be applied. Simple NPK fertilisers can also be applied. The base dressing stage is very important in farming.
For those using soil based application of fertilisers, fertilisers with a high phosphorus content should be used at the planting stage to increase the root mass of the plants, fertilisers with a high nitrogen content should be used at the vegetative stage of the plant to increase the leaf mass and boost photosynthetic ability of the plant and potassium based fertilisers should be used during flowering and fruiting. Calcium based fertilisers should be used in all stages to improve the ability of the plants to fight diseases and pests and to also improve flowering and the quality of fruits.
For those using drip irrigation, fertigation during the season will involve the use of potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate, mono ammonium phosphate, mono potassium phosphate and urea etc. Fertigation should be done through drip irrigation daily or bi-weekly.
Calcium is very important in vegetable farming. Calcium is the trucker of all nutrients, without adequate calcium in vegetable farming; the plants will not be able to use other nutrients well. Calcium also improves the quality of fruits. Pepper plants with adequate calcium will have fruits that can stay long without spoiling or losing their quality.
Farmers should be careful in using urea fertilizer or any fertilizer with a high content of nitrogen. Excessive nitrogen can make the plants susceptible to some pests and diseases. Excess nitrogen can also increase insect pressure.
Potassium can make plants tolerate stress better. These stressors can come in form of pests and diseases pressure or adverse weather conditions.
11. Weed Control and Pruning in Pepper Farming
Weeding can be done by hand in pepper farming; in this case, the farmer uses hoes and cutlasses to remove the weeds on the farm.
Weeding can also be done through the use of motorized weeders. These weeders are powered by petrol or diesel engine; they are very efficient and can save labour cost. A typical power or motorized weeder can weed a hectare of pepper farm within one hour while labourers can spend several days to achieve this task.
Some types of herbicides can also be used to prevent the growth of weeds. However, care should be exercised when applying herbicides.
Thorough plough and harrow of a farmland can also delay the germination of weeds. Weeds can be very dangerous as they can reduce yield in pepper plants by as much as 98%.
Pruning is the removal of leaves, shoots and stems from pepper plants. This can reduce the incidences of diseases and also improve yield.
12. Pest Control in Pepper Farming
Pepper plants are often disturbed by a lot of pests. These pests come in form of insects, flies and grubs etc.
Some of the common pests in pepper farming are aphids, mites, thrips, pod borers and root grubs etc. The application of manure that is not well cured can introduce pests to the soil of a farm. Root grubs and some types of insects and flies are often present in manures, these pests can inflict significant damage on pepper plants.
A farmer should ensure that he applies only well cured manure to his farm. Neem cake can be added to manure in order to kill the pests in the manure. Biopesticides and antagonistic microbes can also be mixed with manure in order to kill the pests that may be present in the manure.
To control insects and flies, neem oil can also be used. Fermented cow urine and chilli pepper can also be used as pest control. To use neem oil, a surfactant like soap has to be added to it so that it will mix well in water.
Inorganic pesticides can also be used for pest control. There are a lot of chemical insecticides, acaricides and nematicides available in Nigeria. You should be very careful when buying pesticides in Nigeria, some are totally sub-standard.
13. Control of Diseases in Pepper Farming in Nigeria
From my experience in pepper farming in Nigeria, I have observed that mites attack, bacteria wilt, mosaic viral infection and blight diseases are the commonest diseases of pepper plants. The first step to prevent diseases in pepper plants is to buy treated seeds from approved seeds vendors in Nigeria. Planting untreated seeds can spread diseases to your farmland. All left over plants, debris and stumps should also be removed before you start the cultivation of pepper on your farmland. Leftover plants and debris can harbor diseases that can infect your crop.
Using sterile plant medium and nursery trays for raising pepper seedlings can also help in preventing the spread of diseases. Those who use raised soil beds for their pepper seedlings can spread diseases from their nursery to their field.
Trichoderma sp and other beneficial microbes can be used to prevent and control diseases in pepper farming. Pesticides like fungicides, insecticides and nematicides can also be used to prevent and control diseases in plant farming.
14. Pepper Harvest
Harvesting normally starts in pepper plants after 80-120 days. Pepper fruits are perishable so there should be plans to preserve them. They can be preserved through refrigeration, they can also be sun dried or dried through solar dryers.
Peppers can be harvested when green in colour. They can also be harvested when red or yellow in colour. For habanero peppers, they are mostly harvested when red in colour. Some habanero peppers are yellow in colour, they are called Nsukka pepper in Nigeria.
For sweet pepper, they can be harvested when they are green, red or yellow. They are mostly consumed fresh and not dried.
Peppers can also be harvested, dried and milled into powder.
15. Post-Harvest and Marketing
The post-harvest activities in pepper farming include sorting, grading, transportation and storage of the harvested peppers.
Fresh peppers can be sold in the open markets in Nigeria. They can also be sold in more organized markets like hotels and high end supermarkets.
Stages of Growth in Pepper Plants
The whole duration of pepper plants can last between 120 days to 12 months depending on the types of pepper cultivated.
Habanero pepper plants (atarodo) can last for over 12 months on your farm. They start fruiting after 3 months of transplanting and you can harvest for 6-8 months if you take care of your plants well. Habanero pepper seedlings will typically spend 4-7 weeks in nursery before transplanting.
Chilli pepper plants’ behavior is similar to that of habanero pepper plants.
For sweet pepper, the whole cycle of the crop is about 200 days, sweet pepper cultivated in greenhouses can however last up to 6-8 months depending on the type of care given to it.
The vegetative stage in pepper plants is the stage at which the plant form canopy with a lot of leaves. This is the stage at which photosynthesis becomes very effective.
In most pepper plants, flowering starts after 75-90 days or 35-45 days after transplanting of the pepper seedlings.
Open Field Pepper Farming
Open field pepper farming is the cultivation of peppers without the use of any protected covering or house. Open field cultivation of pepper is very common in Nigeria. About 99% of pepper farmers in Nigeria cultivate their pepper in the open field.
For sweet pepper cultivated in the open field, stakes may be used so that the fruits will not touch the soil. Fruits touching the soil can get infected and become unmarketable. Planks or bamboos and ropes are used to erect stakes for pepper plants.
Open field pepper farming does not require intensive inputs application like greenhouse farming. Some pepper farmers in Nigeria even use only manure to cultivate their peppers. However, we advise farmers to conduct a soil test in order to know the types of nutrients or fertilisers to apply to their soil.
Pepper Farming under Greenhouse
A greenhouse is a covered structure used in the cultivation of plants or crops. Peppers can be cultivated under greenhouse conditions.
In greenhouses, peppers are grown at a high density; also a lot of fertilisers and inputs are added to the pepper plants in order to maximize the yield of the pepper.
Greenhouse grown peppers are often superior in quality than open field peppers and they often command better prices than open field grown peppers.
The drawback of growing peppers in greenhouses is the initial cash layout to build or acquire a greenhouse.
Organic Pepper Farming in Nigeria
Some pepper farmers prefer to grow their peppers under organic conditions. Why organic farming for pepper? Organic farming involves the use of no chemicals at all while cultivating peppers.
Manure, microbial inoculum, biofungicides, bioinsecticides, neem oil and other organic inputs are used for organic pepper farming.
Organically grown peppers are usually sold at a premium as those who prefer organic foods are of the opinion that consuming organic foods are healthier than foods grown with chemicals.
Yield of pepper
Depending on the type and variety of pepper planted, the yield of pepper per hectare can vary from 2 tonnes – 30 tonnes. Some varieties of sweet pepper can yield up to 40 tonnes per hectare while some varieties of habanero peppers can yield up to 6 tonnes per hectare.
The yield of a pepper farmer depends on a lot of factors. The factors affecting the yield of a pepper farm includes the level of soil fertility, types of fertilisers used, water availability, weather conditions, weeds, level of pests and diseases and other agronomic factors.
Implementing good agronomic practices can increase pepper yield.
Questions and Answers on Pepper Farming (FAQ)
a) Question: How can I get pepper seeds to buy in Nigeria?
Answer: You can contact Veggie Concept on 08025141924
b) Question: Do I need drip irrigation for pepper farming?
Answer: Yes, drip irrigation can significantly increase the yield of your pepper plants. It can also improve the efficiency of your farming operations.
c) Question: Is pepper farming lucrative in Nigeria?
Answer: Yes, pepper farming can be very profitable if done in the right way. You have to implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in order to get a good yield from your pepper farm. Please see our pepper farming business plan.
d) Question: Do peppers have seasons when it comes to sales?
Answer: Yes, peppers have seasons in Nigeria. At some times of the year, the prices of peppers skyrocket.
e) Question: Is pepper a high yielding crop?
Answer: Yes, pepper can be a high yielding vegetable crop.
f) Question: How long does it take pepper to grow?
Answer: Pepper takes about 70 – 95 days after transplanting before it fruits.
g) Question: What is the best month to plant pepper?
Answer: The dry season months of January, February and March are the best months to plant pepper.
h) Question: Can dry season pepper farming be practised in Nigeria?
Answer: Yes, dry season pepper farming can be practised with irrigation in Nigeria.
i) Question: What types of peppers can be planted in Nigeria?
Should you need more information on pepper farming, kindly contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Read our latest article on the challenges of pepper farming in Nigeria.